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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 - April 27, 1882) was a famous American essayist and one of America's most influential thinkers.

Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Unitarian minister and would later become a Unitarian minister himself. Emerson eventually, however, broke away from the doctrine of his superiors and formulated and expressed the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay Nature.

In 1810, when Emerson was eight years old, his father died. In October of 1817, at the age of 14, Emerson went to Cambridge and was appointed President's Freshman, a position which gave him a room free of charge. He waited at Commons, which reduced the cost of his board to one quarter, and he received a scholarship. He added to his slender means by tutoring and by teaching during the winter vacations at his Uncle Ripley's school in Waltham[?].

After Emerson graduated from Cambridge, he assisted his brother in a school for young ladies established in their mother's house; when his brother went to Göttingen to study divinity, Emerson took charge of the school. Over the next several years, Emerson made his living as a schoolmaster, eventually studying divinity himself, and emerging as a Unitaritan minister. A dispute with church officials over the administration of the Communion service led to his resignation. About the same time, his young wife and one true love, Miss Elena Louisa Tucker, died in February of 1831.

In 1836, Emerson and other like-minded intellectuals founded The Dial, a periodical which served as a vehicle for the Transcendental movement, although the first issue did not appear until July of 1840. Meanwhile, Emerson published his first book Nature in September of 1836. His other major works were:

  • The American Scholar (1837 address to Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard)
  • The Divinity School Address (1838 address to Harvard Divinity School Seniors)
  • Compensation
  • Self-Reliance
  • Circles (1840)
  • The Transcendentalist
  • The Poet
  • Politics
  • Experience (1843)
  • Montaigne; or, The Skeptic
  • Fate
  • Works and days
  • Thoreau (1862 - a eulogy)

He also wrote poetry, though not nearly as well.

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